You may have heard of Amanda Palmer from her TED talk, a video that's been viewed over 10M times, or from her groundbreaking crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, where she raised nearly $1.2M. You might know she's married to author Neil Gaiman. But did you know her mother was a computer programmer?
In her book, The Art of Asking, Palmer writes about being invited to speak at Microsoft to a group of female employees. It occurred to Palmer that this was an opportunity to share her mother's story, which surprisingly, even she knew very little about. So she called her mom and asked.
Her mom worked as a computer programming consultant for various companies in the Boston area from the 60s through the millennium, and had a few harrowing tales to share. You'll have to read the book to get the full details. However, what shocked me the most, was that today, 50-odd years later, how much I could relate. Some of the similar, familiar stories were happening to me.
It's 2015 and some of the incidents her Mom mentioned—having paychecks withheld or delayed, not being allowed to make mistakes, being seen as indecisive rather than thoughtful, and being penalized for changing directions after pursuing an idea that didn't work—have happen to me in the past year in my tech job as an information architect/digital librarian. I'm not bitter or letting it stop me, only asking for more.
How has this double standard persisted? And how do women in tech survive? As modern women in tech, we all need to demand better contracts and treatment. We need to hire contract lawyers, or consult legal aid, and make sure every client signs.
Which brings me back to the main crux of the book, asking for help, which in my experience is something female founders have a hard time with, and even more so, letting people help. Palmer's book really resonates. It's about making a genuine connection with your community, fans, users, and customers, looking each other directly in the eye, and reciprocating. She's successfully used new tech and social media tool to influence. She's created a self-sustaining business in a way that works for her. She has a staff of loyal employees. She's a trailblazing female entrepreneur with over a million followers on Twitter.
Work smart and ask for help. It's okay! Ask for more. Ask for what you need, until you get it. Be grateful. Say Thank You.—Michelle Zaffino
Michelle Zaffino is a writer and librarian living in San Francisco. Michelle founded In the Stacks.tv, a digital library and book recommendation app.
If you love people enough, they'll give you everything.—Amanda's friend Anthony
Ask for what you need. Get over the judgment surrounding it, from other people, but especially yourself.—Amanda Palmer
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